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2011 iOS Preview for Apple Universe Stargazers

By Rob Walch MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 29, 2010 5:00 AM PT

It is not likely Apple will announce any more updates to iOS devices in 2010 (beyond the actual release of iOS 4.2 in November) -- so this means, of course, that it is time for a preview of what updates there will be in the iOS universe in 2011.

2011 iOS Preview for Apple Universe Stargazers

These predictions come from an analysis of Apple's own words and actions, along with consideration of what new technologies are available; they are not based on any "unnamed inside sources."

iPad 2 When: The original iPad launched at the end of March 2010, so the safe money would put the iPad 2 launch around mid-March 2011. However, if Apple feels the plethora of Android tablets being showcased at CES in January will pose a threat to the iPad, it might be proactive and schedule the iPad 2 to be announced right around CES, with availability by the end of January. Either way, you are looking at late-January to mid-March for iPad 2 to hit the Apple store near you.

What: 100 percent done deal -- a front-facing camera with Facetime support. However, I do not see a rear-facing camera in the iPad 2's future, just as there is no rear-facing camera on the Macbook Air. Expect a bump to 512 MB internal RAM, a slight speed bump in the processor speed to around 1.2 GHz, and a storage option of 128 GB on the top end.

Back in June, Steve kind of threw the iPad screen's pixel resolution under the bus when comparing it to the iPhone 4's retina display. The iPod touch also has the retina display. I am guessing the product manager for the iPad is feeling a little left out, so there is an outside chance the iPad 2 gets a retina display.

One last item that may make its way to the iPad 2 is a second dock connector, so you can dock it in both landscape and portrait orientations.

Note: There is zero chance of anything other than the 9.7-inch screen size. Steve made that crystal clear in the October quarterly earnings call.

iOS 5

When: If the iPad 2 launches before the end of February, expect in mid-March a special Apple event to announce the future features of iOS 5. If the iPad does not launch until March, then expect this event in mid-April. Either way, Apple will need to start beta testing iOS 5 prior to the end of April to meet a public launch of mid-June.

What: First off, expect iBooks to be a native app with iOS 5. For other features for iOS 5, you can look to jailbreak apps for hints of what could be added, such as Screensplitr, which lets you mirror your iOS device on a monitor, or Lockdown, which lets you password-protect individual apps. Digital zoom for video recording would also be a nice add. Most of the other new features are likely to revolve around making the iOS devices even more enterprise-IT friendly.

iPhone 5

When: There are four years of tradition pointing to the iPhone 5 being available in late June 2011. Enough said.

What: Pretty much a lock is the 64 GB storage option. I will also go out on a limb and say Apple will change the antenna design on the iPhone 5 and go back to a metal back. (Glass on both sides was like having a piece of toast buttered on both sides. No matter how it lands when you drop it, it is a bad thing.)

There should be a bump in processor speed, same as the iPad, and an increase in internal RAM to 1 GB. One outside possibility is adding LTE compatibility -- which, given all the other specs available now for the iPhone 4, would at least give current users of the iPhone a reason to upgrade.

One last rumor that could materialize is the incorporation of near field technology, which would turn your iPhone 5 into a virtual debit/credit card. I think LTE is more likely -- and I don't think LTE is all that likely.

Note: Forget about a removable battery and physical keyboard. Nor will there be an SD card slot or mini USB port -- there is the dongle for those. Which is why you will not see an HDMI port either. If that support comes, it will come via a dongle for the 30-pin connector.

iPod Touch 5th Gen

When:As sure as the sun rises in the morning, Apple has a music event in September -- and once again, in September 2011, Apple will have said event, at which time the iPod touch 5th gen will be unveiled.

What: Bump in storage to 128 GB. Same processor bump as iPad and iPhone 5 -- pushing to 1.2 GHz. Plus an internal RAM bump to 1 GB. Expect an improved rear-facing camera with a flash -- but honestly, it would be hard for Apple to not improve the current camera. Finally, expect a major change to the exterior of the iPod touch -- the current design is a little long in the tooth.

Apple TV 2

I actually don't see a hardware update for Apple TV in 2011. Rather, around the release of iOS 5 in June, I think we will see a major software update that will allow for apps to be installed on Apple TV 2. At a minimum, expect to see Hulu and ABC added, next to Netflix. But since the jailbreakers are already figuring out how to put apps on Apple TV 2 -- Apple will kind of be forced to follow suit.

While 2011 does not look to be as radical a year as 2010 was for the iOS universe (iPad, AntennaGate, Apple TV 2), there can and will be some solid updates for iOS devices and for the iOS itself.

You might be thinking, "Hey, you didn't include the Verizon iPhone," to which I respond, "No -- no I didn't. Check back next year when I preview 2012."

Rob Walch is host of the Today in iOS podcast.

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